Race Day Diary: Road America 2016

I honestly thought I would never get to see Indycars at Road America in my lifetime. After trying and trying for so many years to get Indycar back to a track that has that special something, a deal finally got made to get Indycar back.

Arriving to the track felt a bit like Iowa, in that the track is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It really is a beautiful track. Right when we got there, we walked up to the front stretch, stood on the fence, and watched the Indy Lights cars restart! It's insane how loud the cars are up close.

My parents went to the paddock (which I didn't know and I didn't realize was free) and met up with Conor Daly and Mario Andretti! Meanwhile, Sammi and I went to meet some tweeps and Sarah Hall showed us the best seats in the house. We moved from the bleachers in turn five to the hills towards turn six so that we could see all of turn five, turn 14, and the cars going up the hill on the front stretch. Epic seats!

I really want a cold weather race one day. It seems like every race I go to I end up sweating like a whore in church. Road America was no different but still fun! Watching the broadcast when I got home confirmed it. Here is what I saw from my spot, starting with P22 and working my way down:

Race observations 

22) Scott Dixon 
Didn't really get a good look at Scott Dixon today. Car seemed good and given his success at tracks like Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio, Scott surely would have been a threat to win had the mechanical problems not stopped him.

21) Conor Daly
Conor Daly drove one hell of a race, enough to make me a proud fan. Only a mechanical failure prevented him from getting a top-ten. He kept Helio Castroneves in his view all day and had some good battles with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Second-to-last doesn't look good on paper, but paper doesn't always tell the whole story.

20) Max Chilton 
What looked like a potential breakout weekend for Max Chilton ended in disaster. Even before he ran out of fuel, Chilton was moving backwards from his starting spot of P7. I saw several times where he was on push-to-pass but failed to overtake a car. Speed is there, but I'm not sure he's figured out how to put it together in a race. Also not sure at how well the #8 Ganassi team is "gelling" at the moment.

19) Gabby Chaves 
Thoroughly unimpressed with Gabby Chaves this year. I'll leave it at that.

Gabby pitting and probably getting a penalty too (Photo: Chris Jones / Indycar Media)

18) Sebastien Bourdais 
Kind of sucks when your race is over on the first lap. Sebastien Bourdais's pace seemed okay but never got a chance to show it. That makes three times this year where a first lap incident has effectively ruined his race.

17) Takuma Sato 
FUNNEST DRIVER TO WATCH TODAY IN TURN 5? TAKUMA SATO! He passed so many cars! He had one moment where he lost the back end at the exit of turn five, over-corrected and lost the front end, the corrected again and kept on going. He really is fun to watch, he just always has that one moment that derails his whole race.

16) Mikhail Aleshin 
Mikhail Aleshin may want to go to a chiropractor after the race because he got some big jumps on the turn five exit curb. Aggressive as usual, but the pace wasn't ultimately there for him.

15) Alexander Rossi 
Alexander Rossi looked pretty racey in the first and second stint despite having some damage, but the damage did him in, throwing a good result out the window.

14) James Hinchcliffe 
Rough first stint for James Hinchcliffe didn't help his day. He also got abused out there by some of the other drivers. I count either two or three times where he was pushed off the turn five curb (he was visually upset with Ryan Hunter-Reay). Still, P14 has to be great given the hand they were dealt.

13) Simon Pagenaud 
Despite having a great car and a great race, some sort of mechanical issue dropped Simon Pagenaud like a bad habit. As we walked back to the car, I pointed at him and said to Sammi, "The guy who finishes the cool-down lap is usually the saltiest about the race." Go figure, Simon was the first back (and rightfully so).

12) Marco Andretti 
That was the most painful P12 finish I have ever seen from a driver. Marco Andretti, once again the slowest Andretti Autosport car (even though he beat out Rossi who had an unscheduled pit stop) continues to have a futile year. Someone will be fired in the 27 camp this offseason, and sure as hell know it won't be the driver.

Photo: Joe Skibinski / Indycar Media

11) Jack Hawksworth 
I was so ready to give Jack Hawksworth the Cone of Shame after the first stint. Hawk, who I think should have been fired after Indy, actually rebounded quite well, making it back to P11. I have no personal beef with Jack; he's a pretty nice dude. The results just haven't been there.

10) Carlos Munoz
It looked like Carlos Munoz went up the field then down the field and then back up and then finished P10. So-so race, nothing major to point out. A bit over-aggressive at time, but nothing flagrant.

9) Spencer Pigot 
What a great race for Spencer Pigot. He quietly and efficiently passed a couple cars and used some strategy to move close to the top-ten, where he then showed some bravery on the final restart. A great result for a guy who has a limited time to impress owners heading into 2017.

8) Josef Newgarden 
Josef Newgarden may have put in one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen. He is seriously a hero to me. I can barely walk on a bum ankle, let alone run. With his body broken, Newgarden battled from a bad qualifying position to P8. HERO, ABSOLUTE HERO.

Photo: Shawn Gritzmacher / Indycar Media
7) Juan Pablo Montoya 
Juan Pablo Montoya got saved by a mechanical issue from Simon Pagenaud from being "worst Penske driver of the weekend." Bottom line is, he was the slowest Penske car this weekend. Had some good moves and some overly aggressive ones, but I just don't see the same Montoya that we had last year.

6) Charlie Kimball 
Well Charlie Kimball may have been a bit aggressive today, but hey he finished P6 on his own merit rather than a garbage strategy. He kind of got screwed with Helio Castroneves forfeiting his position for blocking Charlie... except the position didn't go to Charlie. But Juan Montoya told reporters after the race, he's not a big fan of how Charlie races. He must be doing something wrong if Montoya has a beef with it.

5) Helio Castroneves
I'm not sure Helio Castroneves got higher than fourth and lower than seventh all race. He was literally boring to watch. He did have a nice block, which is nothing unusual for him. Too bad the guy he blocked didn't even get the position he yielded. Typical.

4) Ryan Hunter-Reay 
Stealthy good race from Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had a good charge up the field and some good scraps towards the end of the race. Was impolite on a couple passes, but so were others. Nice day for the DHL Honda.

3) Graham Rahal 
Very good run Graham Rahal today. He was never out of the top-five and drew some massive cheers from the crowd. Another very impressive race on a natural road course for Graham.

2) Tony Kanaan 
Man I almost thought that Tony Kanaan was going to get that win today! He made it really interesting on Will Power there at the end. TK had to be all smiles under the helmet to be back at Road America.

1) Will Power 
Epic race from Will Power, who was really the class of the field. Mega congrats to him on a stellar race. Surely this will help will find a way into the championship fight towards the end of the season.

Photo: Joe Skibinski / Indycar Media

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey